Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:
via the tuskegee experiment by firstname.lastname@example.org (safire blew) on 2/11/10
So yesterday morning I logged onto Us Weekly Online, per usual, and saw an excerpt from the Playboy Q&A on John "my dick is a white supremacist" Mayer.
I have to admit, my first reaction was astonishment that someone besides Joe Simpson could get that sexually excited about Jessica, but my second was *chortle* "This guy..."
It really didn't go much deeper than that. I thought he was doing a white boy version of the Rihanna thing--trying to make his inane pop star image into something darker and "edgier" in an attempt to gain some weird sort of artistic credibility or prestige.
I thought the attempt was convoluted, transparent, just the sort of thing Us Magazine was made to report. Not news. Certainly not scandalous.
Then, later, I had my daily run through my usual black blogs. And I was stopped short.
Quite a few black women bloggers are actually upset about what Mayer said. Like really upset.
Now, I won't say this shocked me, but after reading a few postings and a slew of outraged comments, it certainly exhausted me, and then it began to bore me.
I know that asking this rhetorical question after this lengthy build-up is mad corny Carrie Bradshaw steez, but here goes...
When is something that someone says so stupid to us that even if it can be construed as racist, we just treat it as the stupid shit that it is?
Black people have higher rates of hypertension than any other race in this country, no? And after reading all this painstaking analysis of this bullshit interview from some douchebag white guy who is clearly just trying to sell some iTunes, I can see why.
I don't condone people exploiting us or denigrating us. But I have a few problems with black people's reaction to this John Mayer thing because:
1) We do issue hood passes.
Just because we don't hand them out at podiums and the white recipients don't thank God and their mamas on TV when they receive them doesn't mean we don't do it. We do. Even though we know that it'll turn around on us as it has so many times before.
We unofficially send the message that certain white people, namely those that co-opt some art form that we originated and show just a scrap of appreciation for the solid, are no longer grouped into the generally hated monolith of White People. They're officially "cool."
Well, in pop culture parlance, being "cool" means acting like a ignorant, misogynistic, often nihilistic opportunistic narcissist, i.e. a black male rapper. So John Mayer's on point in this interview. He's coming off "cooler" than a motherfucker.
I mean, let's keep it real. Many of the black women that were so appalled by John Mayer's comments were pumping "Daughters" when it came out and probably even giggling just a few weeks ago about the inappropriate way he was talking about Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson, secretly pleased to have these paragons of white femininity knocked from their pedestals. We were giving him a pass, on some "Well, he does have that blues band" or "He did sing on that one Kanye song." Now, he says some stupid things in the press, and now we're re-nigging.
Many commentators on these blogs even took it as far as asking "What is a hood pass?" Come on now. That's like raving to your girl about this dude you wanna fuck, fucking him, then when the dick is wack telling her "I really wasn't into him all like that." It lacks a certain integrity.
And let's not ignore the fact that we don't get nearly as worked up when BLACK artists say equally degarding things about us.
2) We aren't very analytical when we deconstruct these kinds of things.
Mayer says this in the same article that he says his dick is a white supremacist:
PLAYBOY: You mean the rules of celebrity have changed since Friends made her a star?
MAYER: I said, "Tom Cruise put on a fat suit." That pretty much sums up the past decade: Tom Cruise with a comb-over, dancing to Flo Rida in Tropic Thunder. And the world went, "Welcome back, Tom Cruise."
PLAYBOY: What's the moral there?
MAYER: You have to show that you don't take yourself seriously. Once you do that, people will say you're cool: "You know what? I gotta say I never liked him until he made fun of himself, and now I like him."
Why hasn't this quote made it into any of the angry blog posts I've read?
I hate when people editorialize on sound bytes. Over-simplify. Excerpt for the express purpose of going off. Black people are really good for that.
Yeah, he said the N-word. But look at how he used it. Then refer back to the above quote. He is basically saying in the interview that he feels this schtick is what is needed to get him the fame he has become addicted to. So as irritating as it is that he uses women and black people for material, it doesn't make him any different really than your run of the mill black or male comedian.
That gets me to another question:
Why do we not feel black or (what?) validated unless we are counterattacking somebody that has supposedly victimized us? Or better yet, why do we always have to take the bait when someone puts something as politically or economically inconsequential as this bullshit interview in front of us, just because he or she is talking about "race"?
We always "go there," engaging passionately, self-righteously with absurd pop bullshit like this, but we hedge when it comes to having these same sorts of conversations about published or publicized conversations and dialogues that really do have some bearing on our consciousness or even our actual lives.
John Mayer not being comfortable with fucking black women is going to really alter the course of black history in this country? Give me a fucking break. If everything that so many of the commentators on these blogs are saying is true, not that many black women really give a shit. They don't want to fuck him.
So what's all the fucking fuss for?
3) We can be so disingenuous about our own racism in scenarios like this.
I read Afrobella's post on the interview, and she asks, "What does he mean by 'white girl crazy?'" I'm sorry but I refuse to believe she doesn't understand what he's saying.
Just like white people stereotype us, we stereotype them. Two of the most pervasive and durable stereotypes we have are white people are "crazy" and white women are indiscriminate dick suckers. You know it's true, ignorant as it is.
I once read a Yusef Komunyakaa essay that said that minorities, particularly oppressed minorities, tend to be puritanical because it allows them to use virtue as a measuring stick of superiority as opposed to race. We--black people--do this.
Even as white people stereotype black people as oversexed, we do the very same thing to them. They say we're violent. We say they are. They say we're natural born killers. We slap them with the same label. And on and on.
John Mayer is trading on the myth of black female moral superiority that so many of us propagate when he talks about Kerry Washington in this interview:
MAYER: ...Kerry Washington. She's superhot, and she's also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she'd be like, "Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever." And you'd be like, "What? We weren't talking about that." That's what "Heartbreak Warfare" is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.
He's saying black girls don't do things like this. And isn't that what so many of us "respectable" black women want people to believe about us?
So now why are we playing crazy? Why are we acting like we don't each have (or didn't grow up with) some equivalent term or concept for "white girl crazy" in our idiolects?
John Mayer is a medicore pop star. He appears to be addicted to fame. He's emotionally underdeveloped or the more apt term may be stunted. And he's just not as funny as he thinks he is. People may listen to him, but it is doubtful that they take him seriously. At least they shouldn't. And what he said in this interview really isn't that much more offensive than your typical Top 40 rap verse, if we're going to be honest here...
I think that what black need to do instead of blowing up at every stupid thing that some celebrity like John Mayer says or does that carries a racial connotation is devote our attention to dialogue that really matters and has some bearing on the reality of our lives and the actual state of our community.
This Playboy interview just ain't it.
And for the record, I haven't gone 'white girl crazy' writing this. I'm just trying to keep it readpop real...